Nothing's First Adieu
Home Up A Piece Of Them Nothing's First Adieu


The following is one-act "prequel" to Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  It recounts an imagined view of the first meeting between Beatrice and Benedick, providing insight into what may have sparked their "merry war of wit".  This script was workshopped at Planet One Cafe in NYC's East Village.


Based on William Shakespeare's





A One-Act Play/Prequel


Mildred C. Scott  


       (c) Copyright                

       All Rights Reserved        




LEONATO:    50's, governor of Messina


DON PEDRO:  30ish, handsome, regal but friendly, Prince of Aragon


BENEDICK:   20's, a nobleman and companion of Don Pedro's, blustery but kind
             and generous-spirited

HERO:       Leonato's daughter, age 14, a very conventional young girl


BEATRICE:   20's, orphaned niece of Leonato, independent and strong-minded, 
             but also kind and of good

URSULA:     50's, an attendant to Hero and Beatrice, cheerful and outgoing


SETTING:   A room in Leonato's Villa, Messina , Italy


TIME:  circa 1590ís


AT RISE:  DON PEDRO and BENEDICK are talking with LEONATO.




How long may we expect to enjoy your company, your grace?



I fear war may soon summon our return. Our stay will be but brief.



Truly, I am sorry for that, your grace.  Yet, until then, may you know only all the comfort that my household can afford.

(to Benedick)

And you as well, signor - no friend of Don Pedro could prove otherwise to me.



I thank you most humbly, sir.



Come, Benedick, be not so modest. 

(clasping Benedick's shoulder)                           

Leonato, you entertain a fine soldier and true gentleman - known by a wit sure to entertain you ere we depart.



                          HERO enters anxiously, and

                          goes from the window to the

                          doorway and back again, scanning

                          the horizon expectantly.



Hero, sit you down!  Your cousin will come, surely, in due time.  Your pacing doth not hasten her arrival.



Though it may hasten departure of your shoes.


                          HERO reluctantly turns from the




Come, daughter, greet our guests.  This is Signor Benedick, an acquaintance of the Prince.  Don Pedro, of course, you do well already know.                                                       



Welcome, once more, your grace - and you as well, signor.



Is it Beatrice, by chance, you so eagerly await?


(smiling proudly)

It is, my lord.



My sister's recent passing hath left her only child - an unmarried young woman - to now make our home hers as well.  Hero, of course, hath no siblings and is eager for the company of kin of her kind.



By her kind, surely you mean a woman - though as a woman 'tis unlikely she be kind.



You must forgive Benedick, Leonato.  He masquerades as the enemy of all women; yet I have no doubt 'twill take but one to turn him friend.



I do not consider them my enemy...I merely do not consider them.


(ignoring Benedick's remarks)

Father, what is Beatrice like?



Like her parents, I assume - and one would hope like her mother's husband...but like her mother to be sure.



You are bad, Benedick.  But, in truth, I do know the lady and she is much like her mother.



I have not seen her myself in quite some time.  Nonetheless, I expect she has become a most genteel young lady - and should prove a rare example for you, daughter.



Indeed she hath never given me cause to repent my friendship with her.



Nor shall I repent - if I do not become her friend.                           


                          Enter BEATRICE and URSULA.  While

                          URSULA is composed and

                          appropriately reserved in manner,

                          BEATRICE is bedraggled and unkempt

                          and seems, overall, a bit untamed.


(as she rushes to hug Beatrice)                   

Cousin!  Welcome!


(abandoning his usual composure)

By the heavens!


(concerned, but not overly surprised)

Some misfortune on your journey, lady?


(with a brief chuckle)

No more than a bit of foul weather and an ill-tempered horse.

(finding his tongue at last after taking in this extraordinary sight)

Your horse, then, is a mare?



Beatrice, please allow me to introduce my friend, Benedick. 

(a pause as he smiles knowingly)                        

I have long hoped he might meet with a woman of your kind.


(smiling warmly at Don Pedro)

Of my kind, your grace?  A poor rider, do you mean?



A kind woman of excellent wit.


(with deceptive innocence)

And why is that?  Is Signor Benedick lacking in wit and in need of a patient teacher?


(spluttering in protest to Don Pedro)

I soon will need a surgeon should she wield more of that sharp tongue!                                   



Then you cannot put up your own defense?  So is your wit indeed proved weak.  How good we all agree!

(Beatrice smiles and bows humbly to Benedick in a sudden declaration of truce)

'Tis good to meet you, sir.

(Their eyes hold for a moment before she turns to Hero)

Hero, come - let me get to know my cousin while I make haste to repair the damage from my journey... Ursula, you shall be refreshed as well.


                          BEATRICE, URSULA and HERO

                          start to leave the room.  From

                          the doorway, BEATRICE turns

                          around to address Leonato.



Uncle, thank you for your kindness.  I am sure I shall be happy here.

(to Don Pedro, with a mischievous smile)

Your grace, look to your friend.  Indeed, he doth seem pale - perhaps he is unwell...adieu!


                          BEATRICE, HERO and URSULA exit.

                          BENEDICK wathces them leave in

                          stunned silence while DON PEDRO

                          chuckles in approving amusement

                          and LEONATO shakes his head in




Come - what say you, Benedick?


(licking his wounded pride)

What is left to say? She says it all!  I've emerged from sieges how much less the worse for wear!  You're certain war comes soon, my lord?


(still very greatly amused)

Peace, Benedick.  The lady is but merry - not unlike yourself.



Most unlike, my lord - though indeed she doth seem "mare-ey" ill-tempered as her horse!



As high-spirited, perhaps but of a much more pleasant nature.  And hearing your protests, one might say that were she not, yet she would be no less like you.



To turn companion in her villainy, then, is how you treat your friend! 



Nay, I do but revel in a contest pitting two so evenly at odds. 


(at last recovering his tongue)

Dear Benedick, the Prince is right.  Take no offense.  Her mother, too, did freely embrace challenge and was wont to speak her mind, but did in truth possess a most generous spirit.  Surely Beatrice is her daughter...though 't may take some time before her manner doth seem customary, I'll confess.



'Tis true, my friend, no doubt.  E'en so, Benedick, fear not - she shall grow on you, I'll warrant.



Nay, my lord, please!  At least, I know I shall resist.  Indeed, from now on I shall stand armed 'gainst her next charge.


                          Laughter, chatter is heard

                          offstage as HERO and BEATRICE

                          once more approach.



Be so, then, for here she comes.


                          Enter HERO and BEATRICE, who is

                          now much more well-groomed.


(warmly, his composure fully restored)

Ah now, this looks more like the niece I do recall.


(smiling fondly)

Yea, uncle, fear not - or be forewarned - I remain ever myself.



Dear lady, we would have you know way else.


(to himself - almost)

Save perhaps elsewhere.                                  

(turning suddenly to Benedick)

Did you speak, sir?


(throwing up his hands in mock defense)

Nay, indeed not!  I shall cross no more with you.



And why is that?  Hath you no weapon of equal mettle?



Surely none the heat of your fury would not melt!



If 'twere so the chill of your heart should soon repair it.



Thou may thinkest my heart cold, yet to God be thanks I have one!



E'en so, you hath no stomach - at least for your own dish. Indeed doth it not seem your words drip vinegar in search of honey?  Keep to that course and you shall wear your present sour look forever.


(bravely pressing on)

'Tis strange you should speak of honey - for though no sweetness come from you, indeed, like a bee... you sting!


(calmly amused)

E'en so, a bee left to itself will cause no harm - 'tis not a danger 'til annoyed.


(incredulous - or to the point - stung)

And so I am to blame for your distemper?!?


(maddeningly sweet)

If that is what you say, then we do once more agree.  So, fare you well, signor, for I have done.


                          BEATRICE makes a brief curtsy as

                          DON PEDRO applauds.  HERO, who has

                          wisely stayed clear of the fray

                          watches DON PEDRO and BEATRICE




Here, here, lady!  If the wars we fight were to be won with wit, I should take you with me into battle.



Nay, my lord!  No adversary is deserving of her punishment.  I should take death by the sword over life with her - that I might sooner rest in peace!



You may rest in peace e'en now, Signor....stop talking.


                          BENEDICK splutters into silence,

                          and LEONATO intervenes before he

                          can formulate an adequate reply.



Indeed, you are quick, niece.  Yet I beg more mercy from you than you've shown to our new friend.



As do I, Leonato, though I'm sure our friend will live.  Indeed, Benedick, your challenge to women hath been well answered, think you not?



That question, my lord, I think I will not answer!


                          As BENEDICK continues attempting

                          to wrap the remains of his pride

                          about himself, he is unexpectedly

                          rescued by the sudden appearance

                          of URSULA.



Your grace - a grave featured messenger should like to speak with you.

(to Ursula)

Thank you, Ursula.  Tell him I come presently. 

(to Leonato)

I do fear he speaks of the unrest I mentioned earlier, Leonato.  Good friend, Benedick, come - let's three hear this news together for indeed it affects us all.

(turning briefly to Hero and Beatrice)

Ladies, please excuse us.


                          DON PEDRO, BENEDICK and LEONATO

                          exit, leaving HERO and BEATRICE

                          alone.  The two sit down to talk.



Would I had your wit - for I marvel at your tongue!



'Twould not fit in your mouth, dear cousin.  Your sweetness would ne'er abide its tart replies.



Not so, coz, for 'tis clear 'tis all in fun.

Surely Signor Benedick doth realize

That you do but jest.



Think you so?  I do fear at least a portion of his anger may have been in earnest.  Though for his part Don Pedro doth seem to enjoy watching the fray.


(looking down shyly)

Yea...which is why I should wish to be like you.


(looking at Hero in surprise)

You have an eye upon the Prince?  Then indeed you have good taste.  But sure you need not me to tell you that.



'Tis unfit that I should judge such matter.

Though 'tis hoped that my father would agree.

And though I'll be too young for quite some time -

One day should his approval match my own,

I look to be the happiest of maids.



And indeed you shall, my dear.  But what if he should not approve your choice?  Though should the Prince choose you, I have no doubt you need not fear. But you are young and tastes do change.  Would you not attempt to change your father's mind should his choice seem instead to you a frog?


(very sincerely)

I do not know what I should do, cousin

Save believe he would mean it for my good.

Indeed, I would be sad should he not like

The man who doth most truly move my heart.

Yet, his knowledge of the world exceeds my own

And may discern bad character I'd miss.

Thus, while I shall surely seek approval,

To gain it not can't stop my own heart's will -                   

But to receive it can only free my love,

And assure me that my choice is the right one.



Your father would be proud to hear his daughter speak so.


(in genuine concern)

Would you had a father to protect you.


(amused at her cousin's sincerity)

You think me then in danger from my own judgment?  Worry not, Hero, for if I choose no husband, then indeed you need not fear.



But I should hate to see you all alone -

Indeed, you are too alone already.



Not at all, dear cousin, for I have you.


(smiling and embracing Beatrice suddenly)

Yea, and always shall!


URSULA (offstage)

Hero!  Hero!


(rising quickly)

Ursula is calling me.  I must go.


                          HERO exits.  BEATRICE remains

                          alone, her face quietly serious

                          as she ponders HERO's words

                          regarding the possibilities of

                          a solitary life.  After a moment,

                          unnoticed at first by her,

                          BENEDICK enters, clearly armed for

                          the next battle in their now

                          ongoing war.  Upon noting

                          BEATRICE's sombre mood, however,

                          his demeanor softens, and he

                          approaches almost humbly, sur-

                          prising even himself.  



Wherefore art thou sorrowful good lady?  I did truly never think to see you so, but in faith I do now swear that it doth not make me glad.


(looking at him in surprise)

I cry you mercy, sir.  Who hath stolen Signor Benedick?  Indeed you are like him - but not at all.



Then parhaps you shall prefer me to him.  And, indeed, it well doth seem that we've only just now met for the first time.



And so it doth, Signor - but, sure, I know not what to say at this.



To find you speechless, truly then this is a day of wonders!  Nay, be not angry - to be sure,  I do but jest.



I am not angry.



But you are sad.  You miss your mother?



In a word, yes, but for the chapter, I should say rather I miss a smaller world.  For it doth seem the present one hath become overlarge - or worse indeed, perhaps, that I have shrunk.


(taking a seat beside her)

Without the light of the familiar, indeed the darkness of the strange doth seem to press much closer in, and doth seem - worse indeed - just how much more fierce.


(looking at him in wonder)

I should ne'er before have thought you so reflective, but now your tongue makes plain my very thoughts.

(clearly confused and a little cautious)

Still, I do not know if I should trust ought that feels as strange to me as this.                               


(hesitantly - at first)

Signor Benedick might say he would trust a mouse to the care of a cat with greater confidence than he would trust any thought of a woman.  But, as his traitorous twin, at this moment I do think he hath played me with false dice and nearly lost me your good will. Though it pain me to admit, I fact, I should...well, I should not, but yet I do - or think I can...

(finishing with firm resolve)

In short, I do trust you and beseech you to as well.


(smiling at this hard won victory against himself)

So against your reason, you do urge me to trust mine.  I think I may now yet again be sad, for it begins to seem dear Hero hath struck very near the mark.


(genuinely puzzled)

What mean you, lady?



It seems the fancy of my cousin hath late bended toward the Prince.



Don Pedro?



Yea, is not that rare?  But to the main, she is wise beyond her years in knowing it is like this will but pass.  And already she doth speak of accord between her heart and my uncle's will - which indeed she trusts far beyond her heart..for the which I'm sure the "other" Signor Benedick applauds her.



Methinks he would applaud louder should she choose to take the veil and "save" a bachelor.  To answer more soberly, however, though I should not speak for the "other" Benedick, I myself believe for her to protest thus would make her father very proud.



(again taken aback as he unknowingly echoes her own words)



(suddenly remembering the initial point)

But what sorrow doth this bring upon you, my lady?  Or do you fancy Don Pedro as well?



I have no wish to soar so far beyond myself, though the Prince's friendship is a blessing I do hold in high esteem.  The sorrow that I speak of is a contagion caught from Hero - that I have no protection 'gainst myself - and bestowing my good will, like a pestilence, where e'er I please.


(amused at her choice of words)

Surely you do not believe this?



I believe her thinking so may in part have prompted fear.  But if so, I have forgotten, for at this moment I have none.


(returning her gaze squarely)

Nor do I...

(a mischievous smile creeps in)

except that to have so little fear in your presence doth somehow in itself make me very much afraid...



Bravo! Though I may not trust myself, in speaking thus you do tempt me to trust you, for such a fear as that doth bespeak a form of wisdom.  E'en so, my own wisdom doth entreat you not to share my confession of this trust too soon - at least 'til it doth reach a fuller measure in myself.



And I do most eagerly entreat of you the same - lest I should be killed by the Prince's laughter ere we come within ten leagues of the enemy!



Indeed on that account you need have no fear at all...but sir, doth this not mean we yet once more do agree?



Nay, rather it doth mean that we do agree for once!


                          Sounds of the others approaching

                          are heard.  BEATRICE and BENEDICK

                          hastily rise and move to separate

                          areas of the room.  DON PEDRO,

                          HERO, LEONATO and URSULA enter.


(to Beatrice)

Good lady, as I'll wager Benedick hath informed you, he and I must leave at daybreak.  For tonight, however, we shall all dine together and be merry in each other's company!



A most agreeable plan, my lord.



Benedick - why stay you apart.  Are you yet licking the wounds of our lady's tongue lashing?  What have you to say?



Only that I am at present contented beyond words.


(somewhat puzzled by this response yet remaining merry)

And so I am as well.  Leonato, by your leave, we shall have a bit of dancing before supper.



If it pleases you, your grace.  My home is yours tonight.

(crosses to the doorway; calls out)

Balthazar!  Come - let us have music.


                          He returns to the others, and

                          they all pair off in couples.  DON

                          PEDRO approaches HERO, who smiles

                          joyously at BEATRICE before taking

                          his hand.  BEATRICE smiles back

                          fondly, then goes to ask LEONATO

                          to be her partner, and BENEDICK

                          approaches URSULA, gallantly

                          bowing to her.  She answers with a

                          deep curtsy and the dancing

                          commences. All the while, BENEDICK

                          and BEATRICE maneuver to maintain

                          eye contact without the others

                          finding them out.  After a few

                          moments, the dancing ends amidst

                          smiles and applause.


(as he heavily lowers himself into a chair)

Faith, I am too old for this!



Nay, sir, bite your tongue!  For I am older than you; yet given opportunity I should gladly dance all night. 'Tis not an age too round that weighs you down but that you are too round!

(laughing with the others)

Marry, Ursula, you speak the truth.  And I intend to soon be rounder, for now we shall go eat. 

(He rises)

Lead on ladies... your grace...


                          LEONATO ushers the others out,

                          except BENEDICK, who lags behind.



Come, Signor, let us join the others.



Stay you but a minute, sir, for I have a tale to share for your amusement ere we go.



A bit of mirth is always welcome.  Indeed I am all ears.



Did you note the rapturous countenance of your daughter as she danced here with the Prince?  I have heard beyond a doubt she doth think herself in love! 



Ah, it seems but yesternight she had not yet learnt to walk, and today she is poised to try her wings and soar upon her dreams.  Did the Prince break this with you?


                          Unnoticed by them, BEATRICE

                          appears in the doorway to inquire

                          as to the cause of LEONATO and

                          BENEDICK's delay.  Upon hearing

                          their next words, however, she

                          draws back to listen without

                          being discovered.



Nay, 'tis my understanding the lady doth prefer this stay her secret.



Indeed, she would fear becoming the object of much sport from this. I swear never to speak of it.  But to think she should so soon have her eyes set upon marriage!  'Tis hard to fathom just how swiftly things do change!



Indeed, 'twas a thought far from my mind when I did first look upon her.                            


BEATRICE (aside)
(obviously deeply hurt)

It is I they speak of; I am betrayed! Oh, how this report doth cleft my heart in two.  E'en so, but not one piece shall be given to either Benedick - for indeed the two are one and that one not to be trusted.



Thanks be to you sir, for sharing this bit of news!  For not only is it merry but doth bespeak unexpectedly good judgment.  That the object of her affection should be one known to be so worthy! 


BEATRICE (aside)

'Twas surely an old fool who taught us wisdom comes with age! 



Indeed the future doth look very bright indeed.  I cannot enough express the pride with which I call her my relation!


BEATRICE (aside)

Though should you call her now, by my troth, she will not answer.


                          BEATRICE retreats back into the

                          shadows of the hallway as LEONATO

                          and BENEDICK conclude their con-




I did think you would see't so, and I am glad the news hath, as intended, brought you joy...on which note may we go and enjoy a joyous supper!



Well said, signor!  Indeed, let us be off!


                          LEONATO and BENEDICK exit.  After

                          they are gone, BEATRICE emerges

                          from the shadows to digest what

                          she has just heard. 



Oh, my dear Hero, indeed now I pity you. That you should trust your father's will to help you find a husband.  Still, you are correct to think it hard to trust oneself... And so from this day forward I declare I shall trust none.  For men are but a country of deceivers - and Signor Benedick their crown!

                          Enter BENEDICK.



Sweet Beatrice, your chair at the table is empty, and the table itself is empty without you in your chair.  I have been dispatched to discover your whereabouts that the table - and its occupants - may at last be filled.



I am at present myself empty; yet I have no desire to eat.



What hath happened, lady?  Are you ill?



To the contrary I believe I have never been so well.



Nay, I do think not.  Will you not allow my help?



Truly I do think you have done more than enough.



But I have done nothing.



Would that were the case.  For nothing need be done about nothing and nothing else requires so little remedy.


(clearly disappointed as a light begins to dawn)

You are angry with me.



Do you think that I should be?


(eagerly and sincerely questioning)

For what cause?!?  Good lady, I entreat you, please, to tell me what I've done!



"Nothing" - or so you say.



And so I do believe.  But as to you at this moment I do know not what to think.                   



Then think "nothing" of me.



I should do aught you ask of me - save that.



As you wish, signor, but I should think no more of you.  So once more, fare you well, for I have done.


(completely taken aback)

I' faith, lady, have you gone mad?



I was so for a while yet look not to be again.



So that is all then?  I am banished without ceremony and with no hint of my offenses?



I shall give more than a hint, for your offenses come to this - you are a man!


(at last becoming angry)

Though I did briefly claim a twin, you ever knew me to be one.  But indeed your sides are many and I can decipher none!


                          Sounds of the others approaching

                          can be heard in the hall. 

                          BEATRICE and BENEDICK are too

                          intent upon their argument,

                          however, to notice.


LEONATO (offstage)

What can be the cause of their delay?


HERO (offstage)

I know not, but do fear that some mishap hath occurred!


                          LEONATO, HERO, URSULA and DON

                          PEDRO appear, but still are not

                          noticed by BENEDICK and BEATRICE.


BENEDICK (cont'd)

Nonetheless, it shall be from now on as you would have it.  Indeed will I take care to leave this stinging bee alone!



I would have it no way else.



Would to God I were elsewhere!



As you can be e'en now - walk away!



To what purpose - as it seems I arrive ever again at the mercy of your tongue!



Are you in need of a new compass, then?



Nay, I shall merely trust my instinct and change direction at the first sight of a woman!



For which you should be thanked...


(to Leonato - unheard by Beatrice and Benedick)

Indeed it seems this war is yet very far from done.  Let us four go have supper for it shall be more than cold ere they should join us.


BEATRICE (cont'd)

though you like shall remain hopeless, yet no woman shall lose her way.



Yea, but we shall save a plate for each - surely after this they will need to stuff their weapons!



Marry, madam, well said! 


If it please your grace lead on.


                          All four exit laughing and shaking

                          their heads as they glance back

                          at the still feuding Benedick and

                          Beatrice before disappearing once

                          again into the hall.



Faith, not on my account, for I shall die a bachelor!



Yea, and I a maid!


                          She turns her back on him and

                          crosses her arms, prompting him

                          to do the same.  A bit of glaring

                          back at each other and turning

                          away again, not wanting to give

                          either side advantage, continues

                          as the lights fade out.










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